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Jurgen Habermas and John Locke

This study will explain and compare Jurgen Habermas's philosophy of communicative reason and John Locke's concept of the social contract, focusing on the roles of reason and the definitions of knowledge in both philosophies. The study will argue that Habermas is concerned with the process whereby communicative reason takes place between individuals, while Locke is concerned with developing a rationale for the construction and continuity of a society in which completely free individuals (in the state of nature) agree to form a society which relieves them of some of that freedom but gives them in return protection for their life and property. Habermas presupposes an orderly but free society is which his communicative reason can take place, whereas Locke presupposes a state of nature--part free, part rational, part warring--which necessitates the social contract which, in turn, allows for the same communicative reason. The two theories seem compatible and complementary, and the major difference between them seems to be a question of focus, with Habermas concentrating on the microcosm of individuals communicating and Locke concentrating on the requirements of the macrocosm in which individuals' communication might take place.

Fundamental to the paradigm of mutual understanding is . . . the performative attitude of participants in interaction, who coordinate their plans for action by coming to an understanding about something in the world (Habermas 296).

The goal of Habermas's communicative reason is the arrival by individuals at a place of mutual understanding and agreed-upon definition of reality in order to permit the exercise of reason, communication, and action which flows from such communicative reason. The basis of communication, then, is an "interpersonal relationship" which "is structured by the system of reciprocally interlocked perspectives among speakers, hearers, and non-participants who happen to be present at the ti...

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Jurgen Habermas and John Locke. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 08:55, July 24, 2024, from